In the latest issue:

The American Virus

Eliot Weinberger

The Home Life of Inspector Maigret

John Lanchester

Story: ‘Have a Seat in the Big Black Chair’

Diane Williams

The Last Whale

Colin Burrow

In Beijing

Long Ling

Princess Margaret and Lady Anne

Rosemary Hill

At the Movies: ‘Arkansas’

Michael Wood

Ruin it your own way

Susan Pedersen

At Home

Jane Miller

The Ottoman Conundrum

Helen Pfeifer

Poem: ‘Muntjac’

Blake Morrison

Piketty’s Revolution

Geoff Mann

Short Cuts: In Tripoli

Jérôme Tubiana

Coetzee Makes a Leap

Christopher Tayler

At Auckland Castle: Francisco de Zurbarán

Nicola Jennings

Drain the Swamps

Steven Shapin

Diary: In the Isolation Room

Nicholas Spice

The ScribesAlistair Elliot

More and more often, knowing that you’re dying,
I think of the letter-writers at the post office
in that hot square, with their low desks and dip-pens
waiting in the shade of their municipal trees
for the illiterate victims of time and distance –
the dealers in words, renewing or untying.

Whenever I passed them I would think of paying
to have my raw wish wrapped in the empty nets
of their professional calligraphy,
the well-rubbed language of a thousand nights,
and always hesitated (‘how could she
know what these frightening loops and spikes were saying?’).

I should have paid, and risked your sitting crying
in your own post office, half-wanting to laugh
at this incomprehensible world of effort.
But how could I foresee our separate lives? –
and the need for something kept from the fire, a comfort
framed on the wall, a cause of shrugs and smiling,

diploma from another way of lying:
those syllables, formed by someone with the tip
of his tongue just showing, would say I love you (formal),
I love you (intimate) over your throne-of-sleep –
where you no longer        (verb used only by female)
between the Indian coverlet and the domes of silence.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences